Understanding and Addressing Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Obesity



Obesity has been implicated in a number of chronic diseases that disproportionately impact racial/ethnic minorities (e.g., type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases) (Harris et al., Diabetes Care 21(4):518–524, 1998; Mensah et al., Circulation 111(10):1233–1241, 2005; Jemal et al., CA Cancer J Clin 58(2):71–96, 2008). While excess weight is a problem among all US residents, African Americans are more likely to be overweight or obese than their White counterparts (Hedley et al., JAMA 291(23):2847–2850, 2004). Over 76 % of US African American adults are overweight or obese (Hedley et al., JAMA 291(23):2847–2850, 2004), with rates highest in the South (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral risk factor surveillance system survey data: 2010 state obesity rates. US Department of Health and Human Services). Similar patterns are seen in youth with disparities that emerge as early as the preschool years and widen over time (Ogden et al., JAMA 295(13):1549–1555, 2006; Ogden et al., JAMA 299(20):2401–2405, 2008; Ogden et al., JAMA 303(3):242–249, 2010). There are multiple influences on obesity that may explain higher prevalence of obesity, including individual, family, culture (beliefs, traditions), neighborhood, and policy. Thus, comprehensive models, such as an ecological approach (The ecology of human development, Cambridge, MA), are helpful in understanding the potential factors contributing to racial/ethnic and geographic disparities and ultimately assist in developing interventions to eliminate disparities in obesity and related chronic conditions. The following chapter discusses the public health significance of obesity, provides data on the disparities in obesity rates, discusses potential causes of obesity disparities, and offers multi-level solutions to improve minority health and eliminate obesity disparities.


Obesity Rate Black Community Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Black Church High Body Mass Index Classification 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

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